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AcademicGround >> Getting a PhD....give me the scoop


4/24/09 8:19 PM
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amorphous
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While I am still an undergrad (leaning towards Computer Science but am also considering engineering/physics) lately I have been dreaming big about getting a PhD. I understand it's hard but could one in theory maintain a somewhat normal marriage/social life?

I want a degree that will let me do some truly cutting edge research. The thing is though, I'm really not interested too much in teaching. I want to work in industry since the money seems much better. However, I've heard that in most cases a Master's is best for industry since you are more "hireable."

I know there are some on the OG with graduate degrees. Do chime in.
4/27/09 7:02 PM
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asdf
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Edited: 04/27/09 7:03 PM
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Master's degrees, they hire more of them, but there are more to hire too. The people I know are hurting for Ph.D.'s, so they hire foreigners.

If you want the say so, you almost have to have the Ph.D. You can do it with a Master's, but you have to be better than the equivalent Ph.D.

One thing though, once you get a Ph.D., you will never be expected or allowed to work only 40 hours again. OK, some places, but that should be your attitude going in. The expectations are just a lot higher. Company is not going to hire some Harvard Ph.D. to just work 40 hours and just put him his or her time doing his or her thing.
4/29/09 12:11 AM
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amorphous
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I doubt it will just be a 40 hour per week kind of job. I know the stakes are higher than that if you are in a position that a PhD often is.

Thing is though, there are many jobs that don't require any credentials apart from maybe experience that still require you to work insane hours. If that's the case it might as well be something I find fascinating.
6/17/09 12:15 AM
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OneScoup
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I've worked with many PhD's in the software and engineering industry. They work the same hours as everybody else. I have no idea of the pay difference but only one of them did work that was any different than the engineers, in his case he was one of the "Technologists" that did research.
7/3/09 1:01 AM
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heypilgrim
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I'm doing my master's in history. The only people who apply for phds are the ones who want to be professors. If you don't care about money for a few years, think about the phd. If you want to get married and start a family anytime soon I wouldn't recommend a phd unless the person you're with has a good paying job.
7/5/09 2:37 PM
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Hollywood Blonde
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heypilgrim - I'm doing my master's in history. The only people who apply for phds are the ones who want to be professors. If you don't care about money for a few years, think about the phd. If you want to get married and start a family anytime soon I wouldn't recommend a phd unless the person you're with has a good paying job.


What are you wanting to do with the Master's?
7/8/09 2:17 AM
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heypilgrim
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Historical consulting and journalism hopefully. In itself, a masters in history isn't good for much but it taught me certain transferable skills.
10/4/09 8:26 PM
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Entreri
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I have a MA in Economics.

I suggest you get a Master's. The returns to a PhD are virtually negligible.
10/5/09 7:19 PM
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amorphous
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I'm 99% sure now I want to do a BS in Computer Science with a Master's in either Bioinformatics or artificial intelligence. Both areas sound pretty darned interesting to me.
10/23/09 6:19 AM
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P.V.Jena
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 I'll be getting my PhD in Physics next year - its a requirement if you want your own lab.

Think of the difference between being 22 and starting as a research tech for a cutting edge company - working your way up if you're good

vs.

Being 28 with a Ph.D, either running a project because its exactly that you specialized in, or because your overall technical ability is very impressive. 
11/6/09 5:01 PM
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NowhereMan22000
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LOL, I work in semiconductor manufacturing and R&D - the most high tech industry in the world (note: I'm NOT talking about not pure research here, but very much cutting edge applied research and manufacturing).

There is ZERO difference in the technical ability between PhDs and the people we have hired with just under-graduate degrees. There is ZERO difference in their contribution to the company and ZERO difference in salary (in fact, although they may earn a higher salary to start with, their peers have been earning and getting pay rises for those years).

SOMETIMES a PhD is specifically worth hiring if the work is in EXACTLY the area of his research.

Unless the PhD is from a top school, the fact that someone has a PhD means nothing (to me as someone who manages people whose qualifications range from 2 year diplomas (2 years in college) to PhDs. A PhD is not a good predictor of how good a guy/gal will be (considering we aim for the top undergrads anyway)).

Also LOL at thinking a PhD is the guy to run a project just because they did a few years research on their own in a University where, to put it kindly, there's not exactly the same ongoing time pressure of the real world.

But if you want to stay in academic research, yeah, PhD is a must.
11/6/09 7:23 PM
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amorphous
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Interesting. Thanks NowhereMan22000.
11/10/09 3:23 PM
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P.V.Jena
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NowhereMan22000 - LOL, I work in semiconductor manufacturing and R&D - the most high tech industry in the world (note: I'm NOT talking about not pure research here, but very much cutting edge applied research and manufacturing).

There is ZERO difference in the technical ability between PhDs and the people we have hired with just under-graduate degrees. There is ZERO difference in their contribution to the company and ZERO difference in salary (in fact, although they may earn a higher salary to start with, their peers have been earning and getting pay rises for those years).



SOMETIMES a PhD is specifically worth hiring if the work is in EXACTLY the area of his research.

Unless the PhD is from a top school, the fact that someone has a PhD means nothing (to me as someone who manages people whose qualifications range from 2 year diplomas (2 years in college) to PhDs. A PhD is not a good predictor of how good a guy/gal will be (considering we aim for the top undergrads anyway)).

Also LOL at thinking a PhD is the guy to run a project just because they did a few years research on their own in a University where, to put it kindly, there's not exactly the same ongoing time pressure of the real world.

But if you want to stay in academic research, yeah, PhD is a must.

 Is this true? I'm still working on my PhD, so I dont know how it is in the trenches - but I'm seeing the academically brightest undergrads in grad school (physics ph.d). What are the factors that are really important to a company? I understand deadlines. What else?
11/10/09 5:19 PM
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NowhereMan22000
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P.V.Jena - 
NowhereMan22000 - LOL, I work in semiconductor manufacturing and R&D - the most high tech industry in the world (note: I'm NOT talking about not pure research here, but very much cutting edge applied research and manufacturing).

There is ZERO difference in the technical ability between PhDs and the people we have hired with just under-graduate degrees. There is ZERO difference in their contribution to the company and ZERO difference in salary (in fact, although they may earn a higher salary to start with, their peers have been earning and getting pay rises for those years).



SOMETIMES a PhD is specifically worth hiring if the work is in EXACTLY the area of his research.

Unless the PhD is from a top school, the fact that someone has a PhD means nothing (to me as someone who manages people whose qualifications range from 2 year diplomas (2 years in college) to PhDs. A PhD is not a good predictor of how good a guy/gal will be (considering we aim for the top undergrads anyway)).

Also LOL at thinking a PhD is the guy to run a project just because they did a few years research on their own in a University where, to put it kindly, there's not exactly the same ongoing time pressure of the real world.

But if you want to stay in academic research, yeah, PhD is a must.

 Is this true? I'm still working on my PhD, so I dont know how it is in the trenches - but I'm seeing the academically brightest undergrads in grad school (physics ph.d). What are the factors that are really important to a company? I understand deadlines. What else?


I topped my class (small class, but hey) in Applied Physics, went straight into industry. The problem with physics (at least then) was that it was a jack of all trades master of none type deal (compared to electronic engineering for example) and back in the mid-90s there was no internet with all the career info so a physics grad was kind of at the mercy of the job market.

I did 2 masters degrees through work, and the guys who did PhDs through work (on work-related stuff) are the PhDs who are doing best at my company, not the guys who had PhDs before any experience.

Most PhDs in physics are scrapping over the small number of badly paying postdoc research positions in my experience, or else get badly paid 'analyst'-type jobs where they use their numeracy but that's it.

Case in point: a very very bright guy left work to do a full time Astrophysics PhD. I told him he was mad at the time. I brought him back on short term contract to do the same job as he did 5 years ago when he left, because he had nothing else on.

His wife, also astrophysics PhD, got a public service job analysing numbers for some department or other.

So after giving up 5 years of pay rises and promotions, where did it get him?

As to what the factors are that are most important - trust me, in industry it is NOT the brightest that make it big. It is the guys who have initiative and make things happen and have enough common sense to surround themselves with good people when they go up the ladder, who understand organisations, and possibly most importantly have both creativity and the tenacity to see their ideas through.

The bright guys work for those people.
11/16/09 6:36 AM
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P.V.Jena
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 Ok, check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics

http://www.bls.gov/oes/2008/may/oes192012.htm

Median salary for Physicists is $102,890

Personally, I want to run my own lab at the best University I can get a faculty position at.
11/19/09 8:30 AM
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asdf
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I worked in a field close to Physics, and my labmate got a faculty job at Columbia, applied physics.


Physics is tough. You're going against the smartest scientists, and the job market is smaller. Economy is bad right now, so Universities have hiring freezes. But it's still better than the humanities I think, it just seems worse compared to the other sciences.



That said, I disagree with Nowhereman2000. Sure, there's no difference between the top students with and without Ph.D.'s. But there's not many top physics or chem students from Caltech or MIT that don't go into grad school. It's bred into them that grad school is what the best do.


And the problem with Physics people isn't jack of all trades, master at none. Undergrads everywhere are masters at nothing. It's trying to focus their intelligence towards doing applied stuff instead of proving something in 3 minus delta dimensions or something like that.


also disagree about Ph.D. advancement. I think no question it's easier to advance with a Ph.D.

And disagree that the 'real world' has more timepressure than some university. Maybe that's true at a small school. But it's not true at a big-time university like MIT, Harvard, or even Michigan.

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